The Zion Forever Project is a non-profit that helps maintain Zion National Park, the third most-visited park in the United States. These beautiful parks don't take care of themselves, and one of the Zion Forever Project's many undertakings is supporting over 40,000 children through the Junior Ranger Program each year.
First of all, tell us what we're looking at in this photo.
Mark and I are standing on the banks of the Virgin River in the shadow of the Temple of Sinawava—the gateway to the world-renowned Zion Narrows. This is one of my favorite sanctuaries in the park, a space where it’s hard not to marvel at the majesty of Zion Canyon.
How would you describe Zion National Park to someone who has never visited?
Zion National Park is love at first sight. Even if you’ve seen a thousand pictures, there is nothing that prepares you for Zion’s immense beauty and peaceful presence. Your first (and fiftieth) Zion experience will be full of awe and wonder as you see and feel the overlay of majestic sandstone canyon walls, stunning trees, plants, and wildlife, and the life-sustaining and feature-creating Virgin River. As our guests describe it, Zion is a “place of profound inspiration” that “is a part of our world heritage.”
And how many visitors enter the park every year?
Zion welcomed 4.5 million guests in 2017. We are now the third most-visited park in the National Park System, with more visitors than both Yellowstone and Yosemite.
Tell us about Zion Forever's role and mission.
As the official non-profit partner of Zion National Park and Cedar Breaks and Pipe Spring National Monuments, the Zion Forever Project understands that these sacred places do not take care of themselves, and in order to prosper and remain vital, they must have a community of supporters reflecting all walks of life, experience, and circumstance who care deeply for their future.
Our Forever team strives for excellence in the work we do for the park every day, but we rely on the innovation, creativity, and capacity of our partners to help save what we all love. One of our central goals, inspired by Zion’s superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh, is to find a way for everyone who has a meaningful connection to Zion to find a way to contribute. We need your vision, your energy, and your talents to accomplish our mission.
As parents of little ones, we love the Junior Ranger program. What could a participating Junior Ranger expect in Zion?
As children and families participate in the iconic Junior Ranger Program at Zion and our sister parks Cedar Breaks and Pipe Spring, they connect to the parks on a deeper level through activity-based learning. With the Junior Ranger booklet in tow, families explore these parks looking for clues and learning fun facts about the park. Junior Rangers can identify native plants and animals and better understand Zion’s unique geology. After completing their activities, Junior Rangers are sworn-in by a park ranger and promise to protect our National Parks. They also receive a badge that mirrors those worn by park rangers.
How many Junior Rangers participate ever year? And what does that cost the Park?
In 2017, 40,000 children and their families participated in the Junior Ranger program at Zion, Cedar Breaks, and Pipe Spring. A fact many visitors don’t know is that these signature park programs are not funded by the federal budget. In Zion, Cedar, and Pipe, this program is funded by the Zion Forever Project. The Zion Forever Project is committed to safeguarding Zion’s Junior Ranger Program and is looking to raise $53,400 to ensure that this experience is available to all children and their families in 2019.
Why is this program so important to maintain for the park?
A lifelong connection with nature occurs most profoundly when developed during our children’s formative years. Zion National Park and the Zion Forever Project are committed to making sure that all children who come to Zion are able to participate in this deeply meaningful program regardless of their ability to pay. We know that as they do, we are helping build the next generation of park stewards.
What sort of outreach is done for children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit a national park?
Junior Ranger is one of several programs that the Zion Forever Project supports as we look to Inform Tomorrow, a central driver of our Mission at Work. Over the last 5 years, the Zion Forever Project has helped bring 600 students from Nevada’s underserved schools to Zion for 3 days of ranger-led educational experiences in an award-winning Concrete to Canyons program. Despite living only a short distance away, many children from Title I schools in Washington, Kane, and Iron Counties visit Zion for the first time on a Zion Forever Project funded Field Trip.
In partnership with our supporters, the Zion Forever Project funds summer internships for Utah’s college students interested in public lands careers, brings park rangers to Southern Utah classrooms for hands-on learning, and broadcasts distance learning lessons “Live from Zion National Park” to children from Atlanta to Puerto Rico. We are intentional in our effort to provide all children access to this special place.
And finally, how can we help make a difference? What's the best way to help support these causes?
Partnerships with stewardship-minded individuals and organizations, like Johnny, Joanna, and the entire Letterfolk family, are what are moves the work of the Zion Forever Project forward. Our partners bring hopeful energy, excitement, and action to the Zion Forever Project.
We believe that Zion has many supporters who would contribute to our work if they understood our mission, and we are grateful to Letterfolk for helping us share our stewardship message. Just as we look back with gratitude to the visionaries that set aside Zion National Park for preservation in 1919, our partners in 2019 will be remembered for their trendsetting contributions for Zion’s future protection.
We need all of you: Children who connect with Zion the moment their feet hit the trails, Moms and Dads who believe that outdoor classrooms are an essential part of growing up, Grandparents who want their legacy to extend far beyond their family, and Adventurers who want to continue to discover Zion’s every corner. Discover a portion of our work that matters to you at zionpark.org, and join the Zion Forever Project.